David Saad of Rumney NH, a member of RTKNH, appeared at the House Judiciary Committee hearing and testified in opposition to HB 109.
Here is his testimony:
Honorable Members of the Judiciary Committee
My name is David Saad. I live in Rumney NH and I currently serve on the Rumney planning board. I am also the President of Right-to-Know New Hampshire.
I ask you to oppose HB109 which exempts building plans from disclosure (RSA 91-A:5).
RSA 91-A Preamble states “Openness in the conduct of public business is essential to a democratic society. The purpose of this chapter is to ensure both the greatest possible public access to the actions, discussions and records of all public bodies, and their accountability to the people.”
The law is intended to provide the utmost information to the people about what their government is doing, while preserving an individuals’ rights to privacy. Thus, the law as currently written (91-A:5 IV) already exempts from disclosure any records which are confidential, commercial, financial information, or whose disclosure would constitute an invasion of privacy.
If the public interest in disclosure outweighs the interest in non-disclosure then the record must be disclosed.
Here are a few scenarios in which the public’s interest about the actions of their government would outweigh any interest in non-disclosure requiring public disclosure of building plans or construction drawings:
- Review prior to authorization of taxpayer expenditures for any public buildings
- Review to insure:
- proper permits were issued for building, occupancy, & assembly (RSA 155:1,19)
- tax assessments are accurate
- public safety standards are met including fire/safety codes and disability accommodations (RSA 155-A:5-b)
While there may be some limited circumstances which may warrant non-disclosure, this bill does not adequately and narrowly identify those circumstances. Nor does it properly address the requirements for balancing the public interest in disclosure against the government’s interest in non-disclosure and the individual’s privacy interest in non-disclosure. Instead, the blanket exemption of all building plans and construction drawings is too broad and would completely deny public access to these records.
For these reasons, I ask that you please oppose this bill.